Of all the Boise State teams men’s basketball coach Leon Rice has had, this one might be the most “Boise State.”
Shooters everywhere, athleticism aplenty, height not quite towering, but skill where it counts.
The Broncos open the season at 7 p.m. Friday in Missoula, Mont., against the defending Big Sky regular-season champion Montana Grizzlies. It’s a loaded Boise State team with goals to match.
“This group maybe has a little more physical talent, bigger bodies, but they’ve got to go out and prove they can win,” Rice said.
With senior guard/forward Anthony Drmic granted a fifth year of eligibility and the addition of senior transfer Lonnie Jackson (Boston College), the Broncos have four players who have made six or more 3-pointers in a Division I game, joining junior forwards Nick Duncan and James Webb III.
“We can reasonably put five guys on the floor who can shoot the 3-pointer, and we talk a lot about being able to get floor spacing, and hopefully that’s heightened a little bit more,” assistant coach John Rillie said.
Though the team loses the Mountain West Player of the Year in guard Derrick Marks, Drmic’s return softens the blow. Freshman point guard Paris Austin and seniors Mikey Thompson and Montigo Alford will help handle some of Marks’ ball-handling duties. Sophomore guard Chandler Hutchison is poised for more minutes, while the veterans hope to step up and replace Marks’ leadership.
“You can’t really replace a guy like him. ... How we’re going to replace him is everyone coming together, doing it as a team,” Webb said.
Webb, who averaged 11.2 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season, is on the NBA radar and motivated to help provide the best season in school history. The Broncos won the Mountain West regular season title in 2014-15 (technically shared with San Diego State despite beating them both times) and Wyoming won the conference tournament. Boise State has not won an NCAA Tournament game in seven visits.
All those goals are months away, but it’s what pushes the team in November.
“How we ended last season is a big (motivation) for how we’re going to come out this year — we didn’t end how we wanted to, we shared the Mountain West,” Webb said. “We’re focused on trying to win it outright and win in the NCAA Tournament.”
Boise State at Montana
What: Season opener for both teams
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Watch/listen: Stream available via GoGriz.com for a 24-hour pass ($6.95), audio stream free at BroncoSports.com, radio broadcast live on KBOI 670 AM